At long last the Tories and the DUP have cobbled together an agreement, and we have some semblance of government. Hardly “5 Days in May”, over two and a half weeks since the election the deal has been struck. Quite how it will play out for the nation remains to be seen, but government is government, and it’s reassuring to see the murmurs of another election and parliamentary revolts countered for the time being.
The Democratic Unionist Party has faced its fair share of bad print in the past few weeks. Catapulted from the stormy battle ground of Northern Irish politics, into the somehow presently murkier waters of Westminster, the press has pounced. Labelled at best controversial, and by others “climate-deniers” and intolerant, they’ve endured a bumpy ride into talks with Number 10. Links with the terrorist UDA group have been touted as well. The DUP has largely been written off, and immediate reaction to the deal from across the political spectrum reflects that.
Hot take from @timfarron "The public will not be DUPed by this shoddy little deal. The nasty party is back, propped up by the DUP."
— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) June 26, 2017
But is such treatement of the DUP really fair? Are they the villains they are painted to be? Reality suggests otherwise. The largest Northern Ireland party after the 2017 General Election, with 10 seats and a 36% share of the vote equating to the backing of 292,316 voters, the party made gains across the country. They are not a fading party, or waning power. The party stood for election as every other one did this June, and the men and women they send to Parliament were democratically elected. Indeed individuals in their party, the likes of Ian Paisley Jnr. and Arlene Foster whilst holding extremely socially conservative views, have shown themselves more often than not to be principled individuals.
Democracy is a wonderful thing, but it has to generate a winner and a loser. Try as he might to ignore the fact, Jeremy Corbyn lost this election. Theresa May, albeit not in fantastic style, won. She has the right to choose the government and she has done so.
Tim Farron resigned his Lib Dem leadership position last week with the words, “I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in. In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.” Although he is a man I profoundly disagree with politically, his comments were brave and cut to the chase. We are kidding ourselves if we we think we live in a liberal and tolerant society, if we will belittle and ridicule those who disagree so profoundly with us. The treatment of the DUP by their opposition both in politics and in the press has been remarkably unpleasant, they have been vilified and demonized. We claim to live in a tolerant society, a free nation, a bastion of rights and the individual. Yet recent treatment of the DUP suggests we still have a lot to do, on both sides of the discussion, before we are truly tolerant.
Let’s give them a chance.
Even if we oppose such a party or deal, accepting the reality and putting on a brave face would be no bad thing. But let’s not write them off before they’ve even started. Memorials for Jo Cox were held across the country recently to the sound of her now famous words, “We are far more united than the things that divide us.” In a post-Brexit, terror plagued 2017, uncertainty is rife. Now more than ever we ought to respond positively to those things that unite us, those things we have in common. We all live in a fair and equal democracy. The Tories won, and this is how they choose to govern. For the sake and future of our free society, (excuse the pun) deal with it.